Sunday, 28 November 2010
Millions of us in Britain have websites registered under .co.uk which is operated by Nominet. In December last year the e-crime specialists at the Metropolitan police (SOCA) succeeded in having 1,219 websites, that it believed were involved in counterfeiting, taken off the internet. The courts weren't involved in this action and neither were webhosts. The police approached Nominet directly and they complied with the request. The police claimed that the sites involved were scams, either selling counterfeit goods or charging for goods that never arrived. They said that most were using false contact details and were in fact based in China and other parts of Asia.
While webhosts will demand Court orders or warrants before disconnecting a site, Nominet did so merely at the request of the police.
Now SOCA want to formalise the arrangement with Nominet. It proposes granting Nominet the power to shut down websites, if the police inform them that a site is breaking the law in some form or another. Currently, Nominet has no actual obligation to take action against domains being used by criminals, in contrast to the registrars of the likes of .org and .biz.
Such a move would mark a massive extension of the authorities' powers to clamp down on illegal websites - and possibly those that the powers-that-be deem to be a thorn in their side. Only two weeks ago, Fitwatch, a site dedicated to campaigning against what it sees as heavy-handed practices by police surveillance units, was taken down by its UK-based web hosting company JustHost, after a formal request by the Metropolitan police. The site was accused of publishing guidance to students involved in the recent violent Millbank protests to escape detection by the police.
But, in a matter of days Fitwatch was back up and laughing in the face of the law, with a heap of extra publicity under its belt. The site is now hosted in the US where its hosting company is beyond the jurisdiction of UK police. With no specific powers to seize the site's domain name, Fitwatch could simply set up on the other side of the Atlantic and point the same domain name towards their new servers instead.
SOCA's new proposals, if accepted, would put an end to that, giving Nominet the power to grab back a name at the police's request and effectively increasing the powers of censorship wielded by the UK's law enforcement agencies.
I must agree with Guido. 'Democratic open societies don't let the police decide what is right and wrong'. It's reported that the Westminster government has issued a DA-notice (as they are now known) upon the forthcoming Wikileaks information. One person is decidedly unhappy and I should think hundreds of thousands will join him in protest.
Meantime, today's Herald reports 'Kenny MacAskill is being savaged over porn for prisoners'. The Scottish Prison Service have changed the specification for their new TVs, because: "The phasing out of the current analogue TV signal and the switchover to digital meant there was a European requirement for all new sets to have digital tuner". Asked if the content would be restricted to a central feed, the SPS spokesman added: "Those days are over."
Richard Baker, the Labour justice spokesman, said the new development was another black mark against Kenny MacAskill. He said: "Prison is not supposed to be a home away from home. The public will be furious at the thought of offenders being allowed to watch hundreds of Freeview channels of their choice on brand new TVs."
Who introduced televisions into Scottish prisons? Yes, it was Labour in 1999.
The best thing Mr MacAskill could do is insists upon the cancellation of these new televisions and tell Mr Baker that the public have been furious since 1999 knowing that prisoners have personal television in their cells.